How technology will shape the future of design in India

By Rwituja Gomes Mookherjee   views

Design, a powerful business driver

Post pandemic, the need is to design occupied spaces with more focus on individual experiences, social distancing, technological advances and innovations, health, safety and security. Similarly, client expectation of finished products and spaces have also changed. This means challenging traditional design narratives and requires architects, urban space planners, interior designers, communication designers, fashion designers and product designers to design concepts with technological intervention so as to create a healthy cultural climate, clean buildings and sustainable working environment both at home and at the workplace.

Through the different devices we use, technology has ingrained itself into our daily lives. It connects us and makes our lives easier. Even though it can potentially isolates us, technology helps to create a collective experience when people personalise it.

With remote working and a growing work from home culture, the line between residential and commercial space design have begun to blur. Mobility, flexibility, efficiency, speed, cost-effectiveness and connectivity are now the new mantras.

Designers help define interfaces, interaction models (chatbots, voice operated technology, mobile based applications, built-in sensors, biometrics and facial recognition technologies, anti-distraction and noise cancelling technology), and user flows. They mediate how people experience new technology. Being mindful of comfort and wellness, they provide design solutions and create spaces that are technology free, technology light or camouflaged. A McKinsey report that studied more than 300 businesses found that companies that embrace design created 32% more revenue and 56% more shareholder returns than competitors, over a five-year period. This strengthens the connection between product and user interface design and innovation and company success.

The Designer’s Responsibility

  • Emerging designers training to develop their design sensibilities need to keep up with cutting-edge technologies, artificial intelligence and develop an in-depth understanding of its impact on health, creativity and productivity.
  • Effective conversations with their collaborators is essential to recognize what technology enables the end user and why it matters to their experience. This helps negotiate and drive the value through into the products being developed. Such collaborative thinking also leads to newer metrics to measure success.
  • Design choices have a rippling effect on how new technology (AI) exist and the impact they have on people. Designers need to be really great at unlocking value for people. Often designing of certain products and services can encourage automation which in turn can potentially displace people from their jobs. Designers need to be aware of this and have a responsibility to support with their clients to plan for the same.

Technology has the potential to encourage new behaviours and products can be designed to create habit-forming loops as evident in highly digital-first lifestyles.

Photo by laura Chouette on Unsplash
  • It’s important to work with and learn from experts since it helps to increase knowledge and enhance the interplay between design and experience. Curiosity reading of articles about new technology, designing UX experiences to improve mental health, designing healthcare to be more human can be as inspiring as visiting museums and exhibitions.  
  • Designers need to focus on the importance of storytelling and humanizing technology. When creating a virtual reality (VR) app to showcase a product, interior, finished space, architectural model or user experience, one needs a multi-disciplinary approach to tell stories that help users contextualize themselves in that experience, make them comfortable, and feel that it’s personalized to their needs.
  • Design teaching and learning is inherently hands-on, experiential and participatory. The design studio is known to be a space for experimentation, incubation of ideas and exploration. With online teaching (blending synchronous and asynchronous teaching methodologies) and digital availability of resources, the nature of lessons being taught has been impacted making self-learning essential.

Challenges that technology impose on the design process

Technology changes rapidly! Thus, it’s vital to know why something should be built in the first place and the limitations based on how mature a technology is. This emphasizes the need to continuously prioritize, and negotiate what’s possible with the underlying user need in mind.

Designers have always worked at the intersection of cultural trends, whether in fashion, designer products or buildings. But today advances in technology has accelerated these trends making it hard to integrate them into the planning, design and development phase. Augmented reality, virtual reality are becoming mainstream. Home automation apps (Nest, Hive, Smarthome) are changing the way our homes are managed. Personal assistants like Cortana, Siri, Alexa are transforming the way we shop, play and manage our time. The role of designers and architects (especially with the backdrop of the pandemic) need to anticipate people’s interactions with technology and provide them with products, living and working spaces that cater to the challenges of the changing world.

Ever-expanding career opportunities

Talent, creativity, in-depth knowledge of the sector and understanding of changing trends is essential for success. With the increasing competitive environment, these need to be strengthened with technological know-how to create designs, concepts and solutions making products more appealing. Simultaneously, improved usability and lowered production costs is equally essential. Digital transformation has impacted creative professionals extensively and continues to do so. Extended reality (XR) is a term used to imply augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR). It’s extensively used in gaming but today marketeers are exploring ways to monetise it, create immersive experiences for clients and increase market share in other sectors too. Content developers, strategists, user experience designers, community and project managers are in high demand.

Automobile companies are investing heavily in R&D and product designers and so are consumer goods companies and private design firms. Even in the post-pandemic world there continues to be a consumer market which invariably means an increasing demand for well-designed products and services. Increase in online shopping has drastically changed retail design. Confinement and lockdown have also altered fashion trends.With the addition of over 1,100 start-ups in 2019, India continues to maintain its position as the third-largest start-up ecosystem in the world. They each need their own digital space to grow their businesses. Human-centred design and digital accessibility is equally essential for media houses, publishing firms, retail amongst others. They all need good designers especially those with evolving design sensibilities, like expanding knowledge of graphic design into UX design. Expertise in collaboration, communication, research and a generalist knowledge in technology can enhance classical design skills to develop the ability to work across disciplines and sectors.It is said that at a point in time, the brain processes 11 bn bytes of information yet only 60 bytes are received by the conscious brain. This makes branding and communication of product and services crucial so that they standout.

Creativity in demand

The need of the hour is for students of design, architecture, communication and fashion to embrace the physical, experiential, functional and emotional reality of the world today. They need be flexible, open-minded and audacious in their thinking and outlook. Developing a strong business perspective can help them to position design and themselves as integral to competitive success.

We lead connected lives. It demands a new approach towards bettering our daily experiences. A lucrative design career today literally follows Steve Jobs famous quote, “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Reference *[ business-functions/ mckinsey-design/our-insights/the-business-value-of-design]

Enquiry 2021